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Three months ago I walked into my first public relations class nervous as hell.  The lengthy syllabus was full of many deadlines and terminology that I was not completely familiar with.  To top it off, I had to miss my first class session due to a work conflict.

I had no idea what blogging was all about, and I had never used WordPress.  Blogging would become a major part of class assignments and deadlines.  I stumbled through blogging assignments for a while, forgetting how to correctly link my blog posts to the Blackboard, which essentially meant they weren’t turned in.  But blogging became my best friend as I quickly found my voice, and learned how to connect my research with the writing.

The Instagram assignment was a breeze thanks to my teenager who had recently helped me open an account and shown me the ropes on my cellphone.

Creating a Twitter account was another assignment I found easy.  However, I still have not found comfort with tweeting messages.  I have a personal Twitter account that I occasionally pay attention to.  Unfortunately, my PR class Twitter account fell quickly by the wayside and continues collecting virtual cobwebs as I write this.  I’m not sure I will ever understand using Twitter for any reason other than to promote a product or service.  Since I’m not currently promoting anything significant, I will continue to stalk the posts of those I follow, and hopefully gain new insight as to how to effectively tweet when the time comes.

“Think” was a good read, especially for a textbook.  I learned many interesting facts, and found it easy to understand concepts that were being taught.  I enjoyed the way it connected the subject matter with the real world of PR, using relevant and current examples and company names.  I’m hopeful that the exam based on the book will be a reflection of the things I’ve learned through the reading assignments that were given during this class.  (Fingers crossed)

The speakers were my least favorite part of the class, although I do understand having them come in to try and give information and answer questions about the PR profession.  I’m sure that they were beneficial to my peers’ classroom experience.

However, the biggest frustration I encountered during this semester’s class was the Plan Book.  It looked as big and stressful on paper as it ended up being every time I attacked a deadline.  One of the most difficult things for me personally was having an assignment that was abstract and broken up piece by piece with no tangible example or template to draw from consistently.  It could be anything I wanted it to be as long as it had the right content, but in the back of my mind I knew it had to be something I wasn’t sure I was correctly portraying, so the perfectionist in me was in a constant state of anxiety.  No matter how many times I received clarification of assigned pieces of the plan book, the minute I would go attack them I would second guess everything and stress out completely.  Secondary research was the hardest for me to grasp.  I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be researching, and I spent hours in the library one day feeling more lost as the minutes dragged by.

Organizing all of the pieces of the plan book proved to be as difficult until I was able to get some perspective during peer review.

I’m still not convinced that I nailed the plan book project, but I am very happy to have it printed and bound, and I’m ready to turn in once and for all!

Through all of my personal stresses and trials, over all I have enjoyed this public relations class.  Would I want to take it again?  No.  But I’m glad that I did, and I know that any student pursuing a career in the public relations field will benefit greatly from what it has to offer.

AWAKEN GENERATION

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SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT !!!!

READ MICHAEL GUNGOR’S FOLLOW UP BLOG TO HIS POST ‘THE PROBLEM WITH THE CHRISTIAN MUSIC INDUSTRY !!!

 

Date: Monday, December 9, 2013

Hey Everyone,

As promised earlier, after the incredible buzz around his blog post below in the past week (there have been more than 360,000 views of this blog post in the past 7 days) Michael Gungor expressed to me a desire to write a follow-up blog post to this original post he wrote almost 2 years ago.

I am excited to announce that Michael emailed me his follow-up blog post that he just finished two days ago, and you can read it immediately, by clicking on the link below.

Michael Gungor: A Follow-Up To My Blog Post On The Problem With The Christian Music Industry

 

Regards,

Hervict

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When you are in a touring band, there is a lot of time that is…

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Career Aspirations

At my age, you would think I would have figured out my career aspirations long ago.  I’ve had my share of job titles over the years as a Court Reporter, Judicial Secretary, Paralegal, Support Staff Supervisor, Singer, Public Relations Director.  I’ve gained alot of insight, both good and bad, in each position I have held.  I’ve learned alot about the world and alot about different types of people.  But none of the above jobs have made me feel like “this is it, this is my career!”

Though I’m not quick to put a label on myself, I’ve narrowed my career aspirations down to two things, both of which I plan to pursue; 1. Singing, 2. Social Work.  I tend to think better outside of the box, and I’ve always felt like whatever I do I will end up being self employed.

As a singer, public relations will continue to come in handy as I build relationships and network with my fans and with other musicians who come through town on music tours.  I will use PR skills both in face to face contact and through social media networking to brand myself and my original music in hopes that some day it will be known on some level in the music world.  Even though the research part of PR is my least favorite aspect, the importance of knowing everything I can possibly know about the music industry and promoting my product will be a valuable asset in my future endeavours.

Because I am smart enough to know that success in the music business is about as realistic as winning the lottery, I will continue studying to become an MSW Social Worker.  As a social worker, my success in building and maintaining a client base will be contingent on both possessing great social work skills and implementing excellent public relations skills in the community on a regular basis.  This will be especially important because I plan to open a private practice or start up some sort of assistance program that will be of value to the community and its people.  Everything I’ve learned about planning, researching, communing, reaching diverse audiences, ethics, working for non-profits, personal branding, firm life versus corporate life, and yes, even putting together the PR plan book will be relevant materials and useful tools I will carry with me on my quest for a  successful future.

When I first started this PR class I felt like I had a good grasp on what it meant to be  a public relations professional.  As a singer having worked with many musicians I knew that developing relationships and networking is the number one way to connect and achieve success in the business.  Connecting with people both on and off stage has taught me a lot about the importance of public relations.  In a cut throat scene full of drama and gossip, developing and maintaining your image is important, but possessing good damage control skills is even more important and can make or break your band/music career.

So I brought my prior experiences into the classroom with me.  What I hadn’t realized was the many differences between being a good at personal PR, versus being a PR professional.  It’s no joke that a good PR professional possesses additional skills and stressors I hadn’t even considered.

Going through the process of putting together a PR Plan Book has been a very eye opening experience.  The first thing I learned is that research is a big part of the PR profession.  Researching is very important to putting together a successful plan for a client.  This is not my forte.  For whatever reason, I found that the ideas in my head did not translate easily into the research process.  This is probably due to the fact that I haven’t had to perform academic research in more years than I care to share, but the PR research process really put me in a negative state of mind toward the plan book and brought new light to the PR profession.

Another thing I learned was how time consuming and nerve wracking the networking process is.   This is a very essential part of being a PR pro, and although I have no problem getting up in front of hundreds of people to perform musically, I find myself very nervous going through the  one on one networking experience.  In addition, as a mother of 3 children who are all involved in after school activities it became clear to me that working long days and networking after hours would not be conducive to family life which is currently my biggest priority.

I’ve learned that the PR profession involves a lot of writing and I do love to write.  However my preference for songwriting and journal writing are much different than that of writing for public relations.

So the opinions that I walked into this class with 3 months ago have definitely been modified.  I will walk away from this class with a different understanding and a new found respect for the PR profession knowing it is not quite as simple as I once thought it to be.

Is Solo PR for Me?

Would I rather work for myself or for someone else?  Would I be happier starting my own business (Public Relations (PR) firm or otherwise), or do I need the benefits, structure, and stability of an established organization?  These are question I often ponder…

When I think about solo PR I think of very long days working by myself, going crazy networking and marketing my business, hoping to land enough clients to earn enough income so that I can cover all of my business expenses and pay taxes.   In addition, as a solo PR professional I’d be handling all of the administrative aspects that go into running a business on my own, and I’d be working hard at branding myself into something legitimate in the PR and business community.  Then there’s the fact that I’d be putting my kids in childcare after they get out of school so that I could go to networking events and finalize projects that have been pushed to the eleventh hour.   And maybe somewhere in all of that my family and I would have enough time and money to recoup the loss of time and money I spent becoming a solo PR professional.

When I think about solo PR, I think it is probably not for me.

A recent study found that 1 in 10 independent contractors would not return to a traditional job if given the opportunity (Crane, 2012).  This is likely because as an independent contractor (or solo PR professional) you are free to create your own dress code, work schedule, and income.  Those are great perks considering in a traditional job you are expected to follow the rules and schedules of the office.  Speaking of income, research has found  the average freelance salary was $68,000 versus $46,800 average income in the U.S. (PR Web, 2011).

Although money talks and the perks of being an independent contractor do sound inviting, they still wouldn’t be enough to make me want to work as a solo PR professional at this stage in my life.

Crane, Kelly. (2012, January 23). #PRin2012: Solo PR Pros – The Professions Secret Weapon. PRSAY. Retrieved from http://prsay.prsa.org/index.php/2012/01/23/2012-pr-industry-predictions-solo-practitioners-on-the-rise/

PR Web. (2011, October 26). Infographic: Freelance Revolution in America – 1.7 Million Job Openings in 2011 and Counting. Retrieved from http://www.prweb.com/releases/freelance/revolution/prweb8902546.htm?PID=4003003

Firm v. Corporate PR

Having worked as a paralegal both for the government and in a small private law firm, I’ve been exposed to the differences  in a corporate work setting vs. a private firm.  While researching this topic, it was interesting to learn that those differences continue to hold true in the world of public relations.

Working in a public relations department for a corporation consists of reaching out to both internal and external audiences.  Corporate public relations serves to provide counsel to organizations in managing relationships with various stakeholders and its employees (Benn, et al 2010).  In a corporate setting, a company must work hard to keep their employees working, happy, and informed. Public relations departments often work together with human resources to achieve this goal.  Some of the tasks at hand include managing potential internal company challenges such as sexual harassment issues among co-workers or employee layoffs.  It is often the responsibility of the public relations department to keep employees informed about safety procedures, educated on diversity, and knowledgeable about other company policies.  Crafting appropriate messages and implementing methods of communication about layoffs to both employees and the media, can have a big impact on public opinion regarding a company.   These risks show how important it is to have an excellent internal public relations department that fully supports and understands it’s company.  In addition to effective and excellent internal communications, corporate public relations departments are responsible for maintaining excellent relationships with the public, investors, and the media.

In contrast, when working at at public relations firm you are hired by external sources to provide public relations expertise as contracted.  Typically the work is more flexible, creative and innovative, but balancing multiple clients with different personalities in a variety of industries can be tough and overwhelming.  The expectations are high, demanding, and fast paced but they are also very rewarding (Bramlett 2012).

When deciding on your career path, it is important to consider all of the differences between corporate life and firm life.  Do you prefer to work for one specific company supporting a mission and/or product that you believe in?  Or are you a creative go-getter who wants to branch out and take on multiple work assignments exploring a variety of industries and people?

Benn, Susan, Todd, Lindi R., & Pendleton, Jannett. (October 2010). Public Relations Leadership in Corporate Social Responsibility.  Journal of Business Ethics. Vol 96, Issue 3: 406. doi:10.1007/s10551-010-0474-5

Bramlett, Kellie. (December 28, 2012). The Life of a PR Agency Employee. Ragan’s PR Daily, Retrieved from http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/The_life_of_a_PR_agency_employee__12330.aspx

Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Tumblr, Instagram, LinkedIn, WordPress.  These are the most thought of and used popular social networking sites.  Social networking and social media are often thought of as one in the same.  That is not necessarily the case.  Social media uses social networking sites to share information and deliver messages to specific audiences.  Social media includes blogs, social networking, RSS feeds, websites, podcasts, reviews, bulletin boards, and news groups, and also has the power to support or destroy a brand or reputation (Wilcox, et al 2013). Social networking is more of a two way street of communication or conversation among communities of people with similar likes and common interests.  Social networking and social media tend to overlap.

Billions of individuals, companies, organizations, and governments worldwide use social media to get their messages across to the masses.  Many use websites as a tool to sell products and services, and to allow the public to purchase their goods online.  Websites are also used to provide information about organizations, often incorporating webcasts (or webinars) to convey their messages to their publics.  Social media can also be used to organize protests, demonstrations, and revolutions.

One of the biggest advantages to using social media is the huge cost benefit it provides to companies and their publics.  Employee trainings, company briefings, and new product launches can all be communicated through social media webcasts, saving both time and money by eliminating the need and costs for travel.  Webcasts can also serve as infomercials that can be viewed internationally on a computer, Ipad, and even by cell phone.  This method of “pushing” information can help with public relations, marketing, and sales in very cost effective ways.  But not everything related to social media is positive.

Social media users have been plagued by a variety of negative factors including privacy issues, decreased productivity, cyber-bullying, and a false sense of connection and community (Jung, n.d.).  Because of the public’s willingness to share and post so much information on social networking sites, some people have found themselves victims of compromised bank accounts and credit cards.  Others have encountered issues with their employers, sometimes even losing their jobs over photos and comments they’ve posted publicly.  Hackers have swiped valuable, private information from governments and businesses gaining access to credit card information, employee records, email addresses, nuclear power program information, social security information, and intellectual property (Amerding, 2012).  Cyber-bully’s have lead people to commit suicide, and sometimes individuals who find love online regret to learn they’ve become a victim of a scammer, or worse, the person they’ve fallen in love with does not even exist.

We live in a world where technology has made our lives easier and more convenient.  Social media has made communication across the globe instant and free.  Christmas shopping can now be done on your couch in your p.j.’s, and almost unlimited information is available at your fingertips on the Internet. Making money by selling your product no longer requires an out of home office set up and additional paid staff.  Although we recognize social media as a reliable and great technological tool, we must also keep in mind the potential dangers it can bring.

Armerding, Taylor. (February 15, 2012). The Fifteen Worst Data Security Breaches of the 21st Century. CSO Online.  Retrieved from http://www.csoonline.com/article/700263/the-15-worst-data-security-breaches-of-the-21st-century

Jung, Brian. (n.d.). The Negative Effect of Social Media on Society and Individuals. The Houston Chronicle.  Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/negative-effect-social-media-society-individuals-27617.html

Wilcox, Dennis L., Cameron, Glen T., Reber, Bryan H., & Shin, Jae-Hwa. (2013). Think Public Relations. 12, 251.

Why Research At All?

One of the most important measures of success in public relations is research.  You may think to yourself, “Why should I do research?  My instincts are good and I have experience on my topic.”   In the business world, that is not enough.  Since public relations plays a management role in an organization research becomes very important in identifying issues, engaging in problem solving, managing and preventing crisis, creating good internal policies, and building a good relationship with audiences (Broom & Dozier, 1990).

Research is important when it comes to communication.  Unlike journalism, which is a one way street of providing information to publics, PR is a two-way relationship between its organization and its publics.  We all know that in any type of relationship a two-way street of communication makes things work better.  Research puts us in touch with our publics allowing us to have a better understanding of their needs and behaviors.  It allows us to have a better understanding of the organization too, and is helpful in strategic planning to meet objectives and goals.  By conducting good research we can ensure that our intended message reaches a target audience comprised of those who want, need or care about the information we are trying to share (Public Relations v. 1.0, n.d.).

Another very important reason research is important is money.  As stated previously, research helps us strategize and target specific audiences thereby preventing public relations professionals from wasting money communicating to the wrong people.  Solid research also helps us to create a better budget since we have facts to back up our campaign plan, and that makes management happy.

Finally, by doing research we are able to better measure outcomes and show results related to the work we’ve put in.  These are some of the most important reasons why public relations research is necessary if you want to be a successful public relations professional.

Broom, G. M., & Dozier, D. M. (1990). Using research in public relations: Applications to program management. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Public Relations v. 1.0 Public Relations Research: The Key To Strategy Chapter 8. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/public-relations/s09-public-relations-research-the-.html

PR Crisis

Pink Slime!  The mere thought of it is disturbing.  But to think that you might have eaten it!  If you’re not a vegetarian, you probably have.

So what is it?  ‘Pink Slime’ otherwise known as “Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB)” is a meat additive made up of processed scraps of beef trimmings and fat treated with ammonia.  It is most often added to ground beef.  Are you craving a burger yet?

In March 2012 a media firestorm erupted when a picture of pink slime went viral and was broadcast all over ABC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets. (Sebastian, 2012).

pink-slime

Even though ‘pink slime’ had been an additive to ground beef in the U.S. for the 10 years prior, the media visuals and the fact that the meat additive was treated with ammonia proved too awful for the public to accept.  Most often ‘pink slime’ was used in school lunches and restaurants.  Consumers became overwhelmingly concerned for their health and the health of their children.  The USDA believed ‘pink slime’ was safe for public consumption, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy the outcry.  The public was simply grossed out.

The largest manufacturer of ‘pink slime’, Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), was forced to shut down plants and lay off workers.   Prior to the debacle, BPI had been producing approximately 5 million pounds of (LFTB) per week. Production was reduced to less than 2 million pounds per week when large purchases from the USDA and other national buyers began  to fall through. (Sanburn, 2013).

BPI did not provide an immediate response to the media firestorm.   Even though the reporting of ‘pink slime’ was bias, based on a former USDA food inspectors claims, BPI’s silence caused them to suffer great financial losses and a damaged reputation.

IF BPI had managed their public relations crisis immediately, they could have had a chance to show the public a different side of the story.  They could have educated consumers and the media regarding the care and safety measures they took in producing their product, and likely reduced peoples fear of health concerns (Espenshade, 2012).  They could have persuaded the public that the former USDA inspector had an agenda and was biased, which could have cast doubt on his claims.

Unfortunately, their silence became a catastrophic business loss.  It also became a lesson on the importance of good public relations crisis management and the importance of providing an immediate response to media situations.

Espenshade, Charlene S. (April 5, 2012). Pink Slime Has Been Public Relations Debacle. Lancaster Farming. Retrieved from http://www.lancasterfarming.com/blogs/Pink-Slime-Has-Been-Public-Relations-Debacle#.UkM1TlOE6no

Sanburn, Josh. (March 6, 2013). One Year Later, The Makers of ‘Pink Slime’ Are Hanging On, and Fighting Back. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://business.time.com/2013/03/06/one-year-later-the-makers-of-pink-slime-are-hanging-on-and-fighting-back/

Sebastian, Michael. (December 27, 2012). The 10 Worst PR Disasters of 2012. PR Daily. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225336

The way to know if you’ve achieved success in public relations is through the process of measuring or evaluating the outcome of a PR campaign’s goals and objectives. Goals and objectives must be clearly defined in the beginning stages of campaign planning.  If they are not clearly defined the evaluation process will be impossible to gauge.  By gathering data through magazine and news clippings, surveys, social media analytics and other systemic tracking tools both before and after a campaign, the effectiveness of a PR program can be measured to justify budget expenses and overall success. (Anderson 2008)

According to Don W. Stacks, author of Primer of Public Relations Research, 2nd Ed., there are three stages of measuring campaign outcome.  In the developmental stage, a baseline is established to allow for final evaluation.  Who is the target audience?  What behavior does it seek for the target audience to become aware of and change?  Has action been effectuated?  The refinement stage occurs during the campaign relying on feedback that can be used to make tactical changes to the campaign if necessary.  The evaluation stage is the process that takes place at the end of the campaign, before it is over.  The evaluation stage is the time when measures of the campaign outcome are correlated with business outcomes and the return on investment can be established and analyzed.  (Stacks 2010)

Public relations evaluation is synonymous with investment.  The “bottom line” is extremely important to businesses, so to be able to show the value in a public relations campaign is  extremely important.

Anderson, F.W,. (2008). How to Evaluate Public Relations. Retrieved from http://www.forrestwanderson.com/documents/HowtoEvaluatePublicRelations_000.pdf

Michaelson, D., & Stacks, D. W. (2011). Standardization in public relations measurement and evaluation. Public Relations Journal, 5, 7-8.

Michaelson, D., Wright, D.K., & Stacks, D.W. (2012). Evaluating Efficacy in Public Relations/Corporate Communication Programming: Towards Establishing Standards of Campaign Performance. Public Relations Journal, 6 No. 5

Stacks D. W. (2010). Primer of Public Relations Research, 2nd ed. New York: Guilford.